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When the 21st century arrived, Lonnie Liston Smith's admirers had reason to complain. The pianist/keyboardist hadn't done much recording in the '90s, and many of his '70s and '80s albums were out of print in the United States. But in 2002, Smith's followers were given a few reasons to smile. First, Legacy/Sony came out with the two-CD retrospective Explorations: The Columbia Recordings, and a few months later, RCA reissued Astral Traveling (Smith's first album as a leader) on CD. Thankfully, this reissue is nicely assembled. RCA provides Nat Hentoff's original liner notes from 1973 as well as a new essay by writer Bill Dahl, and alternate takes of four songs -- "Rejuvenation," "I Mani (Faith)," "In Search of Truth," and the title song -- are added as bonus tracks. Plus, the sound quality is excellent. So when you add all those things up, RCA's Astral Traveling reissue is a joy for Smith's followers. But this 60-minute CD isn't strictly for hardcore fans. Astral Traveling, which Bob Thiele produced in 1973, is among Smith's most essential albums. Smith's melodies (which are as spiritual as they are peaceful) are excellent, and he is as expressive on acoustic piano as he is on electric keyboards. Most of the time, this reissue offers the type of soulful serenity one expects from traditional Hindu or Buddhist music; the exception to that rule comes on "I Mani (Faith)," which has a peaceful melody but takes a sharp left turn when saxman George Barron gets into some dissonant, free jazz-minded blowing. But most of the time, serenity prevails on this superb reissue, which is enthusiastically recommended to both hardcore followers and casual listeners.
Performance CreditsLonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes Primary Artist,Track Performer
Joe Beck Guitar
Cecil McBee Bass
Lonnie Liston Smith Piano,Electric Piano
Badal Roy Tabla
George Barron Soprano,Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
James Mtume Percussion,Conga
Sonny Morgan Percussion,Conga
Geeta Vashi Tamboura
Technical CreditsBarry Feldman Reissue Producer
Nat Hentoff Liner Notes,Original Liner Notes
Bob Simpson Engineer
Bob Thiele Producer
Bill Dahl Liner Notes
Charles Stewart Cover Photo